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Josette deLotbinière Hubert Williams, 89, passed away peacefully at home on January 6th, 2024, surrounded by her family. There will be private services later in the spring.
Jo was born on August 19, 1934, in Tokyo, Japan. She was the daughter of Clara Elizabeth Baldwin Hubert of Duluth, MN and Richard Samuel René Hubert of Montreal, Canada.
She spent her early childhood in Japan, China and the Philippines, relocating as her father’s assignments as part of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. changed. Her parents were well acquainted with the people and cultures of Asia, and her father played significant roles in the war effort as a French police volunteer in Shanghai and “on loan” to the British government as Word War II progressed. This led to many interesting experiences for Jo and her three sisters, which she described in her writings in later years.
As the war necessitated much isolation for the Hubert sisters, and being quite precocious about business matters and paperwork, the girls established the fictitious corporation of “Gorbitson and Manger” the sole purpose of which was to shuffle papers and be busy. The term “Gorbitson” became a synonym throughout the family continuing to this day, for any activity engaged in with enthusiasm but devoid of any real-world practicality. Jo adored papers of all sorts and was a prolific distributor of articles, notes, written musings, and genealogical charts.
While her father remained in Shanghai to continue supporting the war effort, Jo left with her mother and sisters for stays with family in Duluth and Montreal, the settings for many of her happiest memories. The family brought with them their beloved Lhasa Apso dogs, among the first of the breed to be brought to the United States. They finally lived among family and enjoyed sledding parties and tending an extensive victory garden. They ultimately settled in Greenwich, Connecticut where Jo and her sisters were enrolled in the tiny Edgewood School. However, being an ever strong-willed individual and seeking larger, more exciting environs, Jo enrolled herself in Greenwich High School after ninth grade. There she delighted in many friendships and participation in theater productions, particularly Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.
Jo went on to Smith College, graduating in 1957 with a degree in Government and Economics. She moved to New York City for her first job with the law firm of Debevoise, Plimpton and McClean. In New York she met and married the dynamic Hank Williams (“Hank Williams sans guitar” – her favorite joke). Their marriage was pleasantly obstreperous for sixty-five years. Hank and Jo settled in Avon, Connecticut where they had their three daughters. She became a loving, devoted and energetic mother as well as an enthusiastic homeowner. She and Hank built a home themselves where she developed a love of designing, decorating, gardening and home projects of any sort. They moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1972.
In Ridgefield, Jo was very involved with the community. She was active with both the Ridgebury Congregational Church and the First Congregational Church, singing in the choirs and serving on their Boards of Trustees. Music was one of her great loves, though in that department she preferred to let Hank shine and declared herself his “groupie,” making recordings of his choir solos and duets to enjoy and share. She was a volunteer for the Ridgefield Public Schools as well as the District Nursing Association. She also followed in her parents’ footsteps as a dog enthusiast, continuing to own and breed Lhasa Apsos.
Jo joined the Republican Town Committee, which she chaired, and she served on the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen, during which time her debates with then First Selectman Lou Fossi used up an impressive amount of ink in the Ridgefield Press. She remained active in politics, working on many campaigns for local, state, and national candidates in the years that followed.
Professionally, Jo was an editor and journalist. She had perfect diction and did not let anyone get away with the misuse of anything. She was a news correspondent and feature writer for The Bridgeport Post, The Norwalk Hour, The Stamford Advocate and Fairfield County Magazine. She was also a talented photographer, supplementing her articles with her beautiful and dramatic photos. She worked for Tepfer Publishing, which produced VideoPlay Magazine at the dawn of the video age, and for the Juran Institute, a consulting firm which also published books and hosted conferences on quality management. As the astute, clear-thinking, straight talker that she was, Jo loved working for Juran and the “quality control” way of thinking and implementation. She retired from Juran in 1999.
In later years, in addition to being an incredibly thoughtful and generous grandparent, Jo continued writing. She adored her writing group at Founders Hall, where she was inspired to start writing about her childhood in war-torn Asia. Most significantly, she wrote about her father’s role in keeping defeated French soldiers from being transported from French Indochina (modern day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) to Germany to serve in the Nazis. Through great coordinated effort these soldiers were instead secretly transported to Northern Africa and freedom. She also wrote an article for and published by the CIA, documenting her father’s efforts with the Office of War Information (OWI) to warn Japanese civilians, by way of dropped leaflets, of the impending bombings. These leaflets also contained information kept from the public, and played a significant role in Japan’s surrender, as the people and even the emperor were not well informed as to the status of the war. She also gave many lectures on these topics to various groups. In her last days, Jo ensured that her father’s documents from the OWI made it to their rightful place at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University where they filled a significant gap in the intelligence from World War II in the Pacific.
Merging her loves of family, history and paper, Jo was fascinated with genealogy. She loved researching all branches of her family tree and sharing the interesting stories she discovered. She printed and shared family tree after family tree all with new bits of information and interesting people discovered. She was a true intellectual and enjoyed nothing more than sharing the fruits of her research in any of her many areas of interest, especially if she could be at all helpful.
Jo is survived by her husband of 65 years, Henry (Hank) Williams, daughters Cyndy DaSilva (Eric) of Marco Island, Florida; Renee Andriani (Vincent) of Leawood, Kansas; and Marnie Augustine (Mark) of New Canaan, Connecticut; grandchildren Steven DaSilva, Maggie, Ellen and Joe Andriani, and Jillian, Sam and Tommy Augustine as well as nine nieces and nephews and their families. She is pre-deceased by her three older sisters, Renee Spencer, Elizabeth Malott and Marcia Ledogar, with whom she is surely reunited in joy, laughter and Gorbitson. Those of us left behind will miss Jo’s stories, advice, thoughtfulness, and love.